A FORMER Premier League football star was killed in a freak accident falling on the stairs in a pub after a drinking session, an inquest heard today.
Ex-Cardiff City and Aston Villa ace Peter Whittingham, 35, had downed up to 10 pints and shots before tumbling through a fire door leading to a beer garden.
The former England under-21 international was taken to hospital and put on a life support machine but died later from a brain bleed.
Friends told an inquest how they had been on an all-day drinking session in Barry, South Wales, to watch a Six Nations rugby match.
Nicholas Davison said the group were in a round of drinks and drank “between six and 10 pints” and had a “round of shots” at The Park pub.
Mr Davison said: “All of us were pretty drunk at that point.”
Ryan Taylor said Whittingham fell in the corridor leading to the beer garden.
He said: “I don’t know if there was some sort of horse play but the next thing I remember was that he fell but I don’t know how he got there or how he had fallen. I just know he had hit his head on the small step on the stairs.”
“I was the first person there and offered him my hand thinking he would just take it and he would get up on his feet.
“When I looked more closely I could see he was not moving and something was wrong.”
The inquest in Pontypridd heard Whittingham had been having “a play fight” with his brother-in-law Robert Williams before the fall.
Mr Williams said: “I have no idea what happened to Peter. I don’t even remember much of the following day.”
Investigating police officer DC Steven Jenkins viewed CCTV footage just before the fall – showing “playfighting” between the friends.
PC Jenkins said it does not capture Peter Whittingham’s fall but the build-up. He said at time of the incident the only people present were Robert Williams, Ryan Taylor, and Mr Whittingham.
He described seeing “light-hearted play fighting” which “evidently involves no malice whatsoever and they are all smiling throughout”.
Mr Whittingham then leaves the shot and a “second or two later” people rush to his aid.
In a statement following his death, his former club Cardiff City said they were “heartbroken”.
In a tribute, they said: ” The news of Peter’s sudden and untimely passing has shaken us to our very foundation.
“Our love goes out to his wife Amanda, their young son and family. They are at the forefront of our thoughts and, on their behalf, we ask for their privacy to be respected at this unfathomably cruel and difficult time.
“First and foremost, Peter was a family man – and somebody who could light up a room with his sense of humour, warmth and personality. Then, as a professional footballer – as a Bluebird – he excelled with talent, ease, grace and humility. Nobody did it better.
“The loss of Peter will be painfully felt by our city, supporters and indeed all who ever had the pleasure of knowing him. We love you Pete and your memory will eternally stay with us.”
Whittingham led the Bluebirds to the Premier League for the first time in 2013 and also helped them to the FA Cup final in 2008 and League Cup final in 2012.
He left the club in 2017 for Blackburn Rovers, where he made 20 appearances.
Whittingham was being treated at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff where he died.
Coroner Graeme Hughes ruled Whittingham died as a result of an accident.
He said: “Over the course of the afternoon-evening he has consumed a quantity of alcohol that has likely impacted his demeanour and steadiness.
“Some time after 9.30pm he was in an area near the toilets and adjacent to a fire door leading to a corridor and steps and outside smoking area.
“During a period of horseplay with a friend and relative he appears to have lost his balance and gone through or caused to open the fire door, fallen, and his head has come into contact with the steps.”
Whittingham underwent emergency surgery at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff but his condition deteriorated and he died 11 days after the fall.